This iconic anti-war ballad was created by Australian singer-songwriter Eric Bogle, as an oblique response to the Vietnam War. Ostensibly about Gallipoli, it was intended as a veiled attack on Australian participation in Vietnam, which Bogle opposed. The song has gone on to be covered by numerous domestic and international musicians, and become Bogle’s most recognised track. In 1986 it was given a Gold Award by the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), and in May 2001 APRA named it one of the Top 30 Australian songs of all time.
Waltzing Matilda has inspired numerous other songs. Perhaps the most famous, and most poignant is Eric Bogle’s And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda, which he wrote as a newly arrived immigrant to Australia in 1972. It was entered in a songwriting competition at a folk festival that year and was awarded third prize. No-one remembers the songs which took the major prizes.
It has since been recorded almost 140 times, by singers from many countries. It was first recorded by Eric on his first LP Now I’m Easy in 1980, after several other people had popularised it in Australia and Britain. In 1986 it was given a Gold Award by the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), and in May 2001 APRA named it one of the Top 30 Australian songs of all time.
When I was a young man I carried me pack And I lived the free life of the rover. From the Murry's green basin to the dusty outback, Well, I waltzed my Matilda all over. Then in 1915 my country said, "Son, It's time you stop rambling, there's work to be done." So they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun And they marched me away to the war. And the band played Waltzing Matilda, As the ship pulled away from the quay And midst all the cheers, flag waving and tears, We sailed off for Gallipoli
It's well I remember that terrible day, How our blood stained the sand and the water And of how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter. Johnny Turk, he was ready, he primed himself well. He rained us with bullets, and showered us with shell, And in five minutes flat, he'd blown us all to hell, Nearly blew us back home to Australia. And the band played Waltzing Matilda, As we stopped to bury our slain, and we buried ours, and the Turks buried theirs, Then we started all over again.
those who were livinge just tried to survive In that mad world of blood, death and fire. And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive While around me the corpses piled higher. Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head And when I awoke in me hospital bed And saw what it had done, sure I wished I was dead. I never knew there were worse things than dying. For I'll go no more Waltzing Matilda, All around the green bush far and free To hunt and to pace, a man needs both legs, No more waltzing Matilda for me.
They collected the crippled, the wounded, the maimed, And they sent us back home to Australia. The armless, the legless, the blind and the insane, Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla. And when our ship pulled into Circular Quay I looked at the place where me legs used to be And thanked Christ there was no one there waiting for me To grieve, to mourn and to pity. But the Band played Waltzing Matilda As they carried us down the gangway, But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared, Then they turned all their faces away.
So now every April I sit on my porch And I watch the parade pass before me. And I see my old comrades, how proudly they march Reliving their dreams and past glory, I see the old men all tired, stiff and sore Those forgotten heroes from a forgotten war And the young people ask "What are they marching for?" And I ask myself the same question. But the band plays Waltzing Matilda, And the old men still answer the call, But year after year, the numbers get fewer Someday, no one will march there at all.
Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda. Who'll come a-Waltzing Matilda with me? And their ghosts can be heard as they march by the billibong Who'll come a-Waltzing Matilda with me?